It’s an exciting time for Ella Mai.she just announced new tourshe’s been nominated for a Grammy this weekend and has new music coming up.
Before the deluxe edition of her excellent sophomore album heart on my sleeve Out tonight at midnight, Ella wowed her fans with two new songs in a special live performance. Gray Goose and The Sound of the Recording Academy her sessions with her R&B star on her series made stripped-down versions of “This Is” and “2 O’Clock” for the occasion.
“It’s a very intimate setting, and I love doing acoustic things with just the piano,” she tells Complex. Hearing it for the first time and hearing the track in action, I’m excited to see it built with more instruments.”
She points out that these songs are actually “polar opposites” of each other, reflecting two very different emotional realities. And this time, it shows Ella’s limitless potential as a musician.
Of course, she also made the most of the opportunity to craft a drink with Gray Goose, the Official Spirits Partner of the 65th Annual Grammy Awards and a large presence at the event throughout the weekend. Watch performances and continue our interview with Ella Mae about new music, the significance of award ceremonies, the state of R&B, and more.
Played two new songs at the Gray Goose sound session. The first is called “This Is”. What are your memories of making that song?
“This is” is such a fun and lovely song and one of my favorite things to sing is love. The song was actually already written, so I just added the pre-chorus and made it my own, but it was a really quiet studio session. The song made me feel the same way. It’s a very pleasant song, and everyone loves it, so I’m excited.
Do you have a favorite lyric in a song? Or a favorite musical moment?
Honestly, everything. It’s a major chord and I’m super happy. Certainly the chorus is the part that really makes me feel good, so if I had a choice, I’d pick the chorus. It’s a very nice chorus.
Another new song is “2 O’Clock”. How did that song come about?
“2 O’Clock” is an interesting story because it’s produced by Kaytranada, but it’s not what you would normally expect from Kaytranada. It’s not a dance song. When I first recorded it, I wasn’t sure. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I like this. But I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t feel it. But for me, the studio session had a lot to do with how I was feeling that day, and it was just a day off for me. That’s why I felt “I don’t like it” no matter what I made.
So I left it for a long time and didn’t come back until 3 months later. So we went back and finished it off properly. But “2 O’Clock” is actually the opposite of “This Is”. It’s very important about situations you know you shouldn’t go back to, but you do anyway. And I think it’s a minor chord, so honestly it’s the opposite.
Both of these songs were performed as part of a Gray Goose sound session. What do you remember about playing these songs in that environment that day?
The funny thing is that these two songs are completely different songs, and I’m pretty much saying they have to tap into different characters, and of course we recorded the two songs one after the other. One is very happy and the other is a little sad. So I just focus on the emotions I felt when I recorded those songs and try to recreate them in my performance. It’s a very intimate environment and I love doing acoustic things with just a piano. It feels like it breathes new life into the song. Many are hearing this for the first time and are excited to see it built with more instruments when they hear the track in action.
These two songs are included in the deluxe version. heart on my sleeve, correct? Please tell me about deluxe.
yes. Deluxe is literally just an extension of all the emotions I expressed on the actual album. This album is very, very close to my heart, so I’m thrilled to be able to breathe new life into it almost a year later with new songs that I feel really strongly about, if not stronger than the actual album. I am really excited to continue it.
I had a little more time, so heart on my sleeve For a break, what do you think of the album? What makes it stand out to you?
With my debut album, the studio was still a new environment for me, and working with songwriters was still new to me. I was checking to see ifbut i think heart on my sleeve It was more so when I was sure of who I was as an artist at the time. We recorded it two years ago and what I was trying to say and what I was going through in my life was super personal. I went in and was mostly writing a journal through songs. Now that I have time to live, every time I hear it it takes me back to where I was recording. It feels good to remember those days, but I’m still very attached to it, even though I don’t always see where I am now and feel the same way I felt with the music. But that’s great. I just announced a tour and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s my first time playing all the songs on the album, including new songs from deluxe. I’m excited again this year. it will be a good one.
What can fans expect from the tour?
This is my first solo tour in 4 years. It’s been a while since our debut tour was before the pandemic. As you know, I just finished touring with Mary J. Blige, but it’s been a while since we headlined. Being on stage and touring is my favorite part of all this. To be fair, it’s been almost a year since the album, and my fans have been asking me, “Where’s the tour? Where’s the tour? Where’s the tour?” I’m so excited to meet you and play this new music and feel that energy again.
We’re on our way to the Grammys, but you’ve been nominated (and won) a lot in the past. I know artists make music for art first, but I’m curious. What does an award ceremony like the Grammys mean to you?
You know, when I was growing up in England as a girl, there were the Brit Awards, but the Grammys always seemed unattainable. For one thing, it’s in America. As an R&B-only artist, R&B isn’t one of the major Grammy Awards categories. But I won my first Grammy early in my career. It was a dream come true to be able to check it off the list so quickly. , now we’re back in the swing of things. It’s just exciting. It’s time for everyone to go back outside and feel grateful again. As you said, it’s not for awards so to speak, but the recognition from your peers and such prestigious organizations is always amazing.
You have become a mainstay in the R&B category and a leading figure in the genre. What do you think about R&B as a whole at this point? What is your favorite thing about it right now?
I love being asked this question because there’s clearly an ongoing debate that R&B isn’t the same as it was in the ’90s, and everyone wants that old-school feeling back. I have a love for music that brings back memories. Those my age (28) grew up on the 90’s and his 2000’s R&B, so of course that would feel great for us. It’s the music of our childhood memories. So I can understand why everyone would want “it”. But I love the state of R&B. It may be a biased opinion. I think it’s great that there are so many versions now. He’s not the only one with a typical R&B sound. There are alternatives. There are so many different versions of R&B, and so many artists giving their own interpretations. I think that’s cool because I don’t think it was necessarily always the case.
I think R&B today is representative of the current generation in terms of content. I think a lot of R&B back then was definitely more musical, but we live in the computer age, so I think it’s timeless. Like I said, unpopular opinion, but I personally love it.
Thank you very much for your help last year. Looking back on 2022, which stand left the biggest impression on you?
Drop the album. It’s been three and a half years since our debut, but we forgot the feeling of putting out an album. It’s such an exciting feeling. You know, all the effort you put in to finally release it to the world and have my fans love it as much as I do.And there were a bunch of things I did [last year]I went on tour with my favorite Mary J. Blige and it was such an honor to do it. But just the feeling of being able to walk into a store… I still buy CDs, so being able to walk into a store and pick up a CD has always been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. am. I know a lot of people don’t do CD anymore or do physical, they just do digital. But I always tell my team that I don’t mind having her five physicals in the store.So definitely an album [was my favorite memory].
What are you most excited about as you look forward to the rest of 2023?
everything in line. Excited for the Grammy Awards. I am honored to be nominated along with the legend of my genre, Babyface.But even outside of my genre, in general, as a producer, as a songwriter. [a lot of] It’s a Grammy, but it’s incredible to be on the list of nominees with him.
I’m really looking forward to the tour too. I love to go on tour, so that’s all I can think of right now. As I said earlier, we are thrilled with this deluxe and breathe new life into the album. And even when the tour is over and Deluxe is released, I want to get back in the studio this summer and do it all over again. There are a lot of exciting new things this year.